I've done a lot of research online, I've watched a few videos and I've asked a few questions and now I feel it's high time I just got on with it!
However, I'm not going to have time to start until tomorrow (Saturday) evening so I can still sneak in a bit of research. I have a plan in my head about how I want to go about it and I would appreciate all the feedback and input I can get both in relation to my plan and also in relation to the more general questions I have.
The equipment I have right now is as follows:
1. Fermenting barrel with tap and bottling wand (it's one of them clear coopers kit barrels that comes with a sort of a collar between the barrel and lid)
3. Plastic spoon for stirring
4. Beer kit
5. Dry yeast pack
6. Brew Enhancer
7. Carbonation Drops
8. VWP steriliser
First things first, I'm using terms below that I'm not 100% that I'm using correctly. So I have some glossary type questions up here:
1. Pitching: I think pitching is simply the act of adding the yeast to the main set of already mixed ingredients into the fermentation barrel. Is that correct?
From what I can gather it is a good idea to make a yeast starter the night before pitching the yeast, but the only videos I saw where a yeast start was made were using a pack of wet yeast and so first I want to know can you make a yeast starter with dry yeast? and if you can would you recommend that I do that?
If I can make a yeast starter with dry yeast then I plan to use a method I saw on youtube here. Now in that video the dude mixed up some water with his fermentable sugar, Dry Malt Extract, (in my case, I suppose I'll be using the brew enhancer) at a ratio of 2 cups water to 1/2 cup sugar, brought it to the boil for 10 minutes and then cooled it down and he then referred to this as wort. From what I understood up to now the wort is (in home brewing terms anyway) all the ingredients of the beer kit, apart from the yeast (and carbonation drops), mixed together in the barrel waiting for yeast pitching.
So either I misunderstood what the term wort is or I misunderstood the video. Can someone tell me which one it is?
If I understood the video and you can make a yeast starter from dry yeast then what I need to do is mix some water with some of the beer kit enhancer in the quantities above. Stir, stir, stir while it's heating. Bring to boil and allow to boil for ten minutes. Cool it down to a temperature that the yeast will be all happy and snugly in and call it wort. Then I need to add the yeast to the wort and stir, stir, stir like a crazy person for a while and then cover it up in a jar or flask with some tinfoil and leave it overnight. So again my question is can you make a yeast starter with dry yeast? How many of ye recommend the making of a yeast starter if I can? And is what I outlined here a suitable method for preparing a yeast starter.
The next step is to add the ingredients, beer kit enhancer (and if I've made a yeast starter this will just be the remainder of the enhancer that wasn't used in the starter) & beer kit, with 2 litres of hot water and again stir, stir, stir some more to mix it all together and dissolve the sugars and mix the beer kit evenly with everything else. Where the video that came with the kit says add hot water, I've read between the lines and take to mean nearly boiling water and if that's the case would I be better off mixing these ingredients in a pot on the cooker and bringing to near boil but also making sure that the sugars are dissolved as much as possible and also that the beer kit is mixed evenly through it?
So one way or another whether I mix it in a pot or in the barrel, after it's all mixed it will be in the barrel at this stage. Then I need to add more water to bring the water in the barrel up to 20 litres mark.
At this stage I add more water to bring up to the 23 litre mark and I need to use the addition of water at this stage to try to get the mixture to a yeast friendly temperature.
At this stage I pitch (is that right) the yeast into the mixture, put the collar onto the barrel and put the lid on the collar and wait.
How does all that sound so far?
Next I use the hydrometer measure the starting gravity of the brew, record the number and leave it alone for a while. A few more days go by and eventually I reach my final gravity. When the final gravity is reached at primary fermentation stage is there a rush to get the liquid beer out of the barrel and away from the sediment or can it be left in here indefinitely.
Next comes the secondary fermentation stage which I gather can either happen in the bottles themselves or in a second barrel. By the time I reach this stage I will most likely have a second barrel available so I intend to do my secondary fermentation in a barrel and if I do that do I just put the equivalent number of carbonation drops into the barrel as I would have put into the bottles if it was being secondarily fermented in the bottles? Or is there a better additive available to be used for secondary fermentation in a barrel? I have read that ordinary table sugar can be used instead of carbonation drops in the bottles and if that's the case I presume that it can also be used in the barrel, is that correct? And if it is, is there anything better that can be used?
So I leave the brew in the secondary fermentation barrel for about another week. Is that correct? and do I have to make any additions to the mix now? or take any hydrometer based readings?
After secondary fermentation is complete (how do I know?) in the barrel it is now time for bottling. Again from what I read I should leave the brew in the bottles for roughly two weeks in order for conditioning to take place. Is that correct?
Right so I think I've covered everything I intend to do and also everything that should be done. If I've missed a step please, please, please let me know!
Next job is to sit back, drink and enjoy!
Next I have some general Questions in relation to brewing:
In terms of fermentable sugars, what is the best type you can get for primary fermentation or does it depend on what you're making? Where can you get this best stuff? How much does it cost? And can you buy it in bulk to bring down the costs?
In terms of the secondary fermentation. What is the best sugar to add to this mixture either when it's in a barrel or being directly added to bottles? Is the best sugar to add at secondary fermentation the same for bottles and barrels? And again where can you buy this best stuff, how much does it cost, and can you buy in bulk?
I received brown PET plastic ox bar bottles with my kit. Are they any good?
I have VWP sterilising agent and I was wondering where I could get more/different sterilising agents, preferably of the non rinse sterilysing agent type?
Is yeast yeast? Or are there different yeasts for say a stout than you would use in a lager or ale? And where can I buy more yeast either in Dublin or online and where's the cheapest?
I think that's it for now, So I'll leave ye with all that for your consideration, and if I think of anything else I'll ask more questions later.